The US Navy has announced a high seas incident wherein it foiled an attempt by Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC Navy) to capture an unmanned surface vessel as it traversed an area of the Persian Gulf.
The US military sea drone was being operated by America’s 5th fleet, and upon the intervention of US Navy assets – including a helicopter which deployed in response – the Iranians let the drone go.
#BREAKING: U.S. Navy releases video showing support ship Shahid Baziar, from #Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy unlawfully towing a Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel in international waters of the Arabian Gulf, Aug. 30. pic.twitter.com/5Dwe0673RE
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) August 30, 2022
Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins, a 5th Fleet spokesman, in a statement identified that the drone in question is a Saildrone Explorer, which is a high tech, relatively large drone used for gathering an array of data, including mapping the ocean’s floor.
According to his statement released in an AP/Washington Post report:
Hawkins said the Guard vessel was towing the drone behind it as a U.S. Navy ship and helicopter approached it. Hawkins told The Associated Press the Navy called repeatedly to the Iranians, who ultimately let the drone go.
Iran did not immediately acknowledge the incident. However, it comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Iran over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
The Saildrone Explorer USV (unmanned surface vehicle) is a newly developed and deployed US-manufactured high tech data collection system which uses AI to autonomously gather oceanic and other intelligence.
The drone’s size is significant, with a hull length of 23ft (7m), a wing height of 15ft (5m), and a draft of 6ft (2m), according to specs listed by Naval Technology.
“The Saildrone USV autonomously navigates through large areas of the oceans based on waypoint-to-waypoint navigation through wind and currents,” the description indicates. “It is constantly monitored by a pilot who can command and control the USV using satellite communications.”